While I have only pretended to be a beekeeper for two years, some people have been pretending for much longer than that. A group of beekeepers from Ealing and District Beekeepers Association met last Thursday evening to celebrate Pat’s 10-year anniversary of being a beekeeper.
The average life span of a beekeeper is said to be the same as the queen, which is about three years. One year to find out what you have to do, another year to understand why you have to do it, and a third year for things to go wrong. This is why Pat’s 10 years of beekeeping is a real achievement and worth celebrating! This will be my third year.
We met at the Duke of Kent pub in Ealing and it wasn’t long before talk turned to our favourite topic – bees. Alan was telling us how he marks his queens with a ring, while John, who is an expert queen catcher, preferred the queen marking pen. Don commented ‘I would like to put a bell on mine so that I can find her’ and I joined in with ‘maybe a crown and a little dress’.
Knowing our bees I suspect orders would swiftly come from the top to remove any paraphernalia used to dress the queen. They quickly dispatched Emily’s queen cage last year.
Towards the end of the evening, after a pint or three, resolutions were made, ‘I am going to be ready for the shook swarm this year’ and promises given, ‘I am going to bring sausage rolls to the apiary on Saturday afternoons’. Beekeepers are, by nature, quite cautious so this was followed by, ‘Let’s not let the sausage rolls get out of hand’.
The following Sunday morning Emily and me checked our hives. February is a perilous month for bees, because it is the time of year when colonies are most likely to perish. The bees will have almost depleted their winter stores, the queen will begin to lay again, and they await good fortune in both weather and plants to forage. They are at their most vulnerable and more susceptible to pests and disease.
Emily found our bees flying into the hive dusted with yellow pollen. We hefted both hives to check the weight of honey stores and opened the roof to see how much fondant had been eaten. All was well and there was no sign of dead bees or disease at the entrances, so we took a stroll around the apiary to check the other hives.
Having not done a bad job of pretending to be beekeepers, there was little to do but go home for a cup of tea and cupcake, and dream of months of bees and honey to come.
Emily took a great video of our bees returning home with pollen on her post ‘More signs of spring‘.